Memory Road: Reading Nonfiction with Deborah Tall


Deborah Tall A Family of Strangers Eavesdropping


Back in September of 2006 Deborah Tall and I read nonfiction together at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. Deborah’s new book, a memoir entitled A Family of Strangers was just “out” from Sarabande Press and my book Eavesdropping had just been released by W.W. Norton. At the time Deborah was experiencing the final stages of her long fight with breast cancer and she had only a few weeks to live. Nary a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She kept me in the writing game during a dark period of my life when I was unemployed and largely unpublished. She saw the evident possibilities in what I was trying to accomplish with my first book Planet of the Blind. And she taught me by example: write every day.

When Wallace Stevens wrote: “The world is ugly and the people are sad” he was speaking in a specialized tense, “The Stevensian pluperfect” on behalf of an ordinary evening in New Haven. One must write against the heavy current.

This morning rain is crossing the farm fields of Iowa. It sweeps along the river valley and behind it the thunder can be heard like a tricky tempo in a work by Sibelius.

Something is coming. Better roll up the windows of the car.

Deborah would say it’s a perfect time to write.



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